South African Military History Society

Tel (+27)(0)10-237-0675 Fax (+27)(0)86-617-8002


Past ZOOMeeting
Hosted by Johannesburg

Johann Ahlers gave the lecture on Thursday 9th September entitled "SA German Internment at Fort Napier during WW1"

The first German free burgher in the Cape settled as early as 1657 and by the start of the Great War there were many German citizens living in SA. These included missionaries, families of soldiers originally employed by the VOC (Verenigde OosIndische Companie - who had started the victualling station at the Cape in 1652) as well as people who made their living on the mines.

As soon as the Great War started, in August 1914, these citizens were rounded up by the police and interned. Many were held in Voortrekker Hoogte - then known as Roberts Heights, now Tshaba Tswane. After a while around 4 000 civilian internees were sent by railway to Fort Napier in Pietermaritzburg.

Fort Napier had been constructed in 1843 and had served as the HQ of British forces during the Anglo-Zulu War of the late 1870s, the Anglo-Boer (SA) War of 1899-1902 and as the Natal garrison HQ in between these conflicts. British troops left in 1915 when the SA Government took over responsibility for self-defence of the Union.

In May 1915 anti-German sentiment around South Africa was heightened by the sinking of the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland and rioting resulted, many German businesses being burned down in several cities in SA. Some were not German but had similar sounding names, e.g. from Austria. By 1916 the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce pleaded with the government to leave the internees rather than send them to Kimberley, because they were of economic value to the traders in the Natal town.

In the camp blocks at Fort Napier (two for women and children, four for men) - boredom was the biggest problem - as with PoWs anywhere - and efforts to reduce this were mentioned. Problems with lice were brought to even Louis Botha's attention - used mattresses from prisons were originally issued because the Regiment had sold off everything left in the barracks when it left. Lack of official response led to the internees starting fires, destroying a recreation centre and four accommodation blocks. Johann's grandfather was one of 11 internees sentenced by military authorities - despite being civilians - to 18 months with hard labour in Pretoria jail. He served 9 months and was returned to Fort Napier.

Johann's lecture is in the ZOOM video library as usual.

* * * * * * *


Just let know in order to be sent an invitation to the next ZOOM meeting. Contact your branch to confirm ROOM meetings while we are under Covid-19 restrictions.

* * * * * * *



Johannesburg Branch

Our next zoom lecture will be on Thursday 14th October starting at 19h30

Speaker: Prof Ian van der Waag
Subject: "Almost entirely a medical war: The South African Medical Corps in East Africa, 1940-1941"

* * * * *

Eastern Cape Branch (SAMHSEC)

Next zoominar will be on Monday 11th October starting at 19h30

Speaker: Patrick Irwin

Subject: "The Elizabeth Salt Saga 1819-2021." An enduring myth exists about the claimed exploits of a young woman at the Battle of Graham's Town in 1819. The talk examines the origins of the myth and the probable reality of her role in the battle.

* * *

Next RPC (request the pleasure of your company) will be on Monday 25 October 2021 at 1930 South African time - details to be confirmed.

Invitations will be sent out as usual.

* * * * * * *


Members with an interesting presentation on any aspect of military history are sought for ZOOMINARS and ZOOMeetings. A nominal 30-40 minute lecture supported by Power Point or similar slides / photographs, but not video, is required.

* * * * * * *


Our KZN branch has managed to hold ROOMeetings in May, June and September so far.

KwaZulu-Natal Branch
Next Meeting: Saturday 9th October
Time: 14h00 for 14h30
Venue: St Cyprians Church Hall in Umbilo

Contact Ulrich Duebi for details about the lecture: or 084 324 6583

* * * * * * *

December 2021 Military History Journal

Members are welcome to send articles, poetry and similar contributions to or to The deadline is the end of October 2021.

* * * * * * *

Monte San Martino Trust ZOOMinar about WWII PoWs

Anne Samson sent the following from John Simkins, Administrator of the Monte San Martino Trust, to SAMHSEC. This is repeated here for the interest of members who do not receive the Eastern Cape newsletter:
" ... We are continuing the series of our successful Zoominars with an event that we hope will have great appeal.

This Zoominar will reveal an area of the history of Allied prisoners of war in Italy that is probably new to most of our supporters. Three speakers will narrate and illustrate different aspects of the story of Indian PoWs in Italy, allowing us to contrast their experiences with those of other Allied prisoners and escapers.

An Italian historian will describe his discovery of fascinating photographs and information from Italian archives; a professor of art will show her research in the subcontinent on the story of Indian PoWs in Italy; and the grandson of an Indian escaper will recount how his grandfather was sheltered by Italians for many months and how the Indian and Italian families were reunited after the war.

Because our guest speakers are in three different time zones (US, Italy and India), we are scheduling this event at 4pm UK time (1800 SAST; note that UK time changes to GMT at 0200 on 31 October 2021) on Sunday, 31st October 2021, which we hope will be convenient for everyone.

To participate, please go to to read details about this free event and to register. Registered participants will receive a Zoom link one week before the event.

Or contact John Simkins at "

* * * * * * *

Branch contact details

Cape Town details contact    Carl Burger     082 333 2706

Eastern Cape details contact    Malcolm Kinghorn    041-373-4469

Gauteng details contact    Joan Marsh     010-237-0676

KwaZulu-Natal details contact    Charles Whiteing     082-555-4689

* NOTE* Fast mirror and backup site      BOOKMARK FOR REFERENCE     Main site * NOTE*

South African Military History Society /